Taliban looking for legitimacy and recognition by the West as Pakistan exults at India’s discomfiture
Russia, China, Turkey and Pakistan have kept their embassies in Kabul open unlike the US, who had not recognized the first Taliban government in 1996. Will they do so now is the question?
Taliban has taken over Kabul and the whole of Afghanistan. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani along with his close aides has fled to Tajikistan. However, senior leaders like Abdullah Abdullah, Hamid Karzai and others are still in Kabul. Ex-President Hamid Karzai has announced a transitional committee to run the affairs of the country along with Gulbadeen Hikmatyar.
It has taken the Taliban a little over a month to take over Afghanistan after the Americans deserted Bagram in the middle of the night. There was little or no resistance. Afghan forces surrendered everywhere to Taliban. Those who did not surrender, either fled from the country or were taken into custody by Taliban. General Dostum, who tried to put up some resistance at Herat, fled to Uzbekistan with his aides when defeat became imminent.
Islamabad is expectedly rejoicing. Islamabad was never happy with Ashraf Ghani for his pro-India stance. Taliban are deemed to be Islamabad’s boys. There is therefore a sense of jubilation in Islamabad. Although Islamabad is trying to look nonchalant and neutral, its love for Taliban is evident. There is a feel of victory. Islamabad is happy as they feel they have been successful in weeding out Indian influence from Afghanistan.
The only question haunting both Pakistan and Taliban, is legitimacy. They have conquered Afghanistan with very little casualty as they had done in 1996 when the first Taliban Government was formed. But the government was not recognized by the West. Will the West recognise them this time? How will the Taliban regain legitimacy and overcome its terrible reputation is something that will define the future.
At the moment, most Western countries including the US have closed their embassies in Afghanistan. But Pakistan, Turkey, China and Russia have announced that their embassies will continue regular work in Kabul. Will they be recognizing Taliban Government Jointly? How or when will the US recognize the Taliban? Taliban are negotiating directly with the US. Both are in contact. There is no gap. US has neither condemned nor spoken against the Taliban so far. They are tight lipped. They did some air strikes to support Ashraf Ghani last week but they were symbolic as no big harm was inflicted to Taliban.
Who will be the next Head of Afghan Government is another question being asked. Taliban do not seem ready for sharing power. Mullah Ghani Baradar, who was once a prisoner of war of the US in Guantanamo Bay prison and thereafter kept in jail in Islamabad is expected to head the Taliban-led Afghan Government.
He is at the moment in Qatar. He visited Pakistan a few times in the last few months and was accorded the highest protocol.
A new Game is about to begin in Afghanistan.
(The writer is a commentator based in Lahore. Views are personal)